Sateria was on her break and she went outside to get some fresh air. The restaurant was unusually slow that day, so Kyra joined Sateria outside.
“Say girlie. Where is everyone’s favorite customer? I haven’t seen him this week.”
Kyra smirked. “The man who no longer sits at anyone else’s station but yours. You know who I’m talking about.”
“How should I know?”
“Because you’re fucking him.”
Sateria’s mouth fell open in surprise. “I am not! I don’t even like him.”
Kyra chuckled. “You may be able to tell someone else that, but nothing gets by me. I’ve known you too long.”
“I’m not sleeping with him, Kyra.”
Kyra put her hand on her hip and looked her friend in the face for a long time. “But you do like him.”
“Well he sure as hell likes you. So tell me something. What are you doing when you cancel our outings?”
“I haven’t cancelled any.”
Kyra shook her head. “You have cancelled our shopping dates on several occasions. So what have you been up to?”
“Nothing. I’m innocent.”
“There is a man in your life, Sateria Murphy. I know there is. Has Brad come crawling back? Is that why you haven’t said anything to me?”
Sateria shook her head. “No. And I wouldn’t have him back if he asked with a huge diamond ring in his pocket prepared to marry me.”
Kyra nodded. “Yup. You are dating someone. If it isn’t the boss, who is it?”
“Okay. You can’t keep this away from me forever. I’m gonna find out soon enough who it is.”
Sateria clicked her teeth. “Okay, okay. Yes I’m dating someone. I just don’t want everyone to know yet. So please don’t say anything okay?” She begged.
“So who is it?”
“I’m not ready to tell you either. But you’re right,” Sateria nodded. “You’ll find out soon enough. If this guy makes it to my birthday, I will throw a party and everyone will get to meet him then.”
“Your birthday is still three months away.”
“I know that. But you’re gonna have to wait until then.”
Johnny and his team finished up their business in Las Vegas and made their way back to Chicago three days later. He was quite satisfied with his plan. He was also excited because for the first time in a very long time, he was going to get to play too. He didn’t go on many trips with his team while Venus was around. Mostly because she wouldn’t let him.
Now that she was out of his life, and Sateria had no idea what his side gig was, he could get out and do the thing that he loved. The thrill of the heist was almost better than sex.
They sat in his office and waited on final instructions.
“Three weeks from now. That’s when we go get it. When we leave this one, we will have an estimated ten million to share.”
“Wow,” Troya said.
“Now if we are all clear on how things are gonna go down, I’m going to see my girl. You might not see me for a couple of days, so don’t look for me, or call unless it is an emergency.”
“When are we gonna start practice?” Jayden asked.
“Soon. Probably next week.”
“Looking forward to it. Can we go now, Johnny?” Pheonix asked. “I, like you, haven’t seen my significant other either. I’m certain I have something good waiting for me when I get home.”
Johnny grinned. “Sure. I’ll call you if I need you.”
Three of the five man team rose and walked out of his office. One remained. He wasn’t exactly happy about Johnny’s decision and wanted to tell his friend and leader how he felt.
Johnny went and poured himself a brandy. “Want one?” He asked Apollo.
Apollo shook his head. “Nope. I do want to talk to you though.”
Johnny closed the bottle and placed it back on the shelf. “Obviously. What about?”
“The upcoming job. It’s too dangerous for us to pull this off when there are so many people around, Johnny. You know that. This isn’t like you. You’re always so careful.”
“So, you still want to do this at night?”
“I do. It would be safer. Not only for the innocent people that will be there, but us as well.”
Johnny took a sip of his drink. “I don’t want any of you to get hurt. We’ve already been over this.”
Apollo sighed and shook his head. He paused for a long time and glared at Johnny. He suddenly had his own idea. “Johnny look, your plan is brilliant as all of them always are. And I don’t doubt that it will work. But will you let me try to come up with a back up plan or something? I mean there will always be a chance that something about the day we are to hit, something will be different.”
Johnny looked at his watch. “A back up? Why? We’ve never needed one before, so why now?”
“You said you don’t want any of us to get hurt. Well, what about you? It’s been a long time since you’ve played with us. You might be a little rusty.”
Johnny nodded. “Okay Apollo,” Johnny sipped his brandy again. “You come up with something, and let me know what it is. We’ll practice both. Timing and precision are important. You know that.”
“I’ve been with you for years. Of course I know that.”
“Good. Tomorrow I’m gonna get the renovation going at the condo, so if you need me just call. If there is nothing else, I’m gonna get outta here.”
Apollo shook his head and stood. “No. I’ll talk to you later.”
They left Johnny’s office and went in opposite directions.
Johnny got into his car and sent a text message to Sateria. She was still at work.
What time do you get off?
Well, I am on my way to get you. I should be there by the time you get off.
Johnny, I’m not ready for this yet.
Ready for what?
To let everyone know about us. You can pick me up from the train station.
We’ll talk about it later.
Okay. I’ll be there.
At five thirty, Sateria got off the train and walked towards Johnny’s car where he was patiently waiting for her. He got out and walked around to her side of his Audi S4 Sedan. When she approached, he didn’t utter one word. He grabbed her and swung her around so her back was to the car. He stared into her eyes for a moment, moved some stray hair from her face, and went in for the kiss. He kissed her deeply to remind her how much he cared for her.
“I missed you,” he whispered, allowing her to come up for air.
“I missed you too.”
Johnny moved back and reached for the car door. He opened it and allowed her to get in. Moments later, they were on their way to her apartment. They rode in silence for the short trip. After the car was parked, and the door to her apartment was closed and locked, Johnny slammed her against the wall and kissed her deeply again.
Sateria pushed him away. “Johnny, wait.”
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s just I thought we could talk.”
“Shhh. We can talk about what’s on your mind later. Right now, I just want to feel you.”
Hours later, the sun was coming up. Sateria woke to the bright summer sun coming into her window, and Johnny standing in the window gazing out.
“What time is it?” she asked.
“Come back to bed. We still have time to hold each other before I go to work.”
Johnny turned to her. “You’re not going to work today.”
“Yes I am. I have a shift and a half to do today.”
“No. Someone else.”
“I see,” Johnny said turning back to the window.
Sateria sat up on the edge of the bed and pulled the sheets to cover her nakedness. “What’s the matter?”
Johnny shook his head without turning back to her. “Nothing really. I just have a lot on my mind.”
“Lots,” Johnny said turning to face her again. “But the main thing is you.”
“Me? What about me?”
“Get dressed. We’ll discuss it over breakfast.” He grabbed his shirt and left her room.
Sateria sat for a minute thinking what she could have done to upset him. She eventually got up and got dressed. They went to a small neighborhood diner and ordered their food. Johnny played with the rim of his coffee cup and watched his finger as he did so.
Sateria was worried. The last few months with Johnny had been wonderful. She was afraid she was about to lose him. She didn’t think she could handle another break up.
“Babe, what’s the matter? Did I do something wrong?”
Johnny stopped playing with his coffee cup and looked up. “Tell me why you don’t want anyone to know about us.”
There, he said it. Plain and clear. No hesitation at all. Sateria didn’t expect him to start the conversation. She thought she would be the one to do that. But it was good he did.
“Well,” she started. “I don’t want anyone at work to think I’m getting special treatment.”
“It would be different if you didn’t own the restaurant. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t care what anyone thought.”
“But why don’t you want them to know? I’m sure that it’s clearly obvious to everyone, including Charlotte that you are getting special treatment from me. Why does it matter as long as you are happy?”
“Well,” Sateria chose her words as carefully as she could. “It’s not fair to everyone else. I mean, before you met me, you used to sit at any available table. That meant everyone had a chance to benefit from your generosity if they deserved it. Now, only I get that, even if you have to wait for a table at my station.”
Johnny glared at her. “Okay, fair enough. I’ll I go back to sharing my tips with the rest of your co-workers. But you still haven’t told me why you don’t want anyone to know we are together. I mean, we are together, aren’t we?”
Sateria thought about how her feelings have grown for him over the last couple months. “Yes.”
“So what’s the problem?”
She didn’t really know. Perhaps she didn’t want any of her friends to look at her differently, especially Kyra. Not really knowing if this relationship was going to last, perhaps she was a bit afraid if her friends knew.
“Johnny, I guess I’m afraid of your money.”
“Sateria, that is ridiculous. What does that even mean? Yes, I have the means to give you whatever you want, but what does my money have to do with you and me?”
“People, who have nothing, look at people with money differently. Did you know that?”
Johnny knew where she was going and thought of something. Perhaps she would bite, perhaps she wouldn’t. “Okay. So how about this? I promote you to hostess and move you to a different restaurant? I do own more than one in this town. I don’t frequent the others half as much as I go the Grand. You won’t be waiting tables anymore, and you can do what hostesses do. Greet me and seat me. Will that work?”
“Johnny, I don’t know.”
“You are so worried about hurting your friend’s feelings; this is one solution to our problem.”
“And the others?”
He couldn’t believe his ears. Sateria really did care for her friends like she said. He wanted to be with her, but he had to put his foot down. “You tell them we are together and not give a damn what they think or you quit and not work at all.”
Shocked by his words, she replied, “Johnny, that’s not fair. I love working at the Grand.”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “Babe, look. You already know how I feel about you. I want to be with you, to stay with you. I want the world to know we are an item. I want the chance to show you off. But I can’t do that if you don’t let me. I’m only giving you a choice.”
Just then their food came. Sateria looked up at the waitress who brought their food, smiling and being extremely polite. She saw herself in this woman, and knew exactly where her thinking was. Tips. Did Sateria want to continue to beg for a little extra money just by being polite? She had a very rich man sitting across the table from her, and he loved her. What he was asking wasn’t hard, but she still wanted to be friends with her co-workers at the Grand. There was only one solution.
“Okay,” she said after the waitress left their table.
“The hostess job. I’ll take it.”
Johnny tilted his head to one side. “Are you sure?”
“Well…where is it?”
Sateria’s mouth fell open. “You’re kidding.”
Johnny shook his head. “No. I’m not. There you can be a hostess in one of the hottest restaurants in the city. There, we can be lovers. I only go in about once a month, to check on things, but there, we can be free. That is if you still want to work and stay with me.” Johnny thought about what he said and realized that his words could have easily offended her. “I’m sorry babe. I didn’t mean that how it sounded. I do want to be with you no matter what. I just want you to be happy. That’s all.”
“You aren’t going to fire anyone to put me there are you? I mean it wouldn’t be right.”
Johnny shook his head. “No. There is an opening, but you won’t have to go through the interview process. You can have the job if you really want it. Also you may be the highest paid hostesses in the city.”
“Johnny, I can’t take your money.”
“It’s not my money, Sateria. It’s the patron’s money. After the overhead and maintenance is taken care of; then it becomes my money. It’s called profit. I just happen to have the power to make things happen. Then you can tell your friends at the Grand you have been dating me all this time. Your real friends will stand behind you and cheer you on. Your false friends and acquaintances with hate you, and will be jealous. At least you will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.”
Sateria sat and absorbed all he had to say. Johnny was right. “So, when do I start?” Sateria asked, grinning.
Johnny grinned back.